Fastbreak: Florida outlasts Arkansas 57-56

The team did not save its season this week, but a second-straight hard-fought victory should give the Florida Gators (12-9, 5-3 SEC) hope for the duration of the campaign. Florida beat one of the Southeastern Conference‘s best teams this season in the Arkansas Razorbacks (16-5, 5-3 SEC), staving off a late comeback to earn a 57-56 victory at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: With the ball and a two-point lead with less than a minute to play, Florida went to redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who clanged an open three off the front rim. Arkansas took possession and called timeout with 30 seconds to play and the ability to take the game’s final shot. The Hogs chose to drive to the hoop, drawing a foul and making 1-of-2 attempts at the line; however, Anon Beard grabbed the rebound and immediately made a layup to put Arkansas on top 56-55 with 10 seconds left to play. Florida freshman point guard Chris Chiozza was unable to make a driving layup on the other end, but junior guard Michael Frazier II grabbed his rebound and immediately got fouled, hitting a pair of free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining to put UF ahead for good. Sophomore PG Kasey Hill then stole the inbounds pass, clinching the victory (see the game-ending play at the bottom of this post).

“I felt like in the game there were a couple moments where we were teetering a little bit, and this game, I really felt like they battled as hard as they could,” head coach Billy Donovan said. Michael Frazier, when he has not made shots, has allowed that to consume him. It’s been two games now where he [has stepped up defensively despite not shooting well]. … That’s been this team’s struggle is that competitive fight. It’s a balance between them being worried about performance and them being worried about competing. When you’re competing, you’re never worried about your performance. … Today, I thought we competed better.”

Significant stretches: Florida and Arkansas fought tooth-and-nail through the first 13-plus minutes of the second half until the Gators began to pull away, using a 7-1 run capped by a three from Finney-Smith to take a game-high nine-point lead at 53-44 with over six minutes left to play. The Hogs, however, were quick to answer with a 7-0 run to cut their deficit to two on the back of Bobby Portis, who scored 10-straight points for the visitors.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Arkansas Razorbacks – Counting on Dorian Finney-Smith

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: CBS (Spero Dedes, Clark Kellogg)
Streaming Video: CBSSports.com | Mobile Video: CBS Sports app

SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Mike Anderson
Record: 11-9 (4-3 SEC) Record: 16-4 (5-2 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -7

JIM MCELWAIN TAKES CENTER COURT

STAR MUST RISE AGAIN

Game-winning dunk aside, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been stuck in one of the worst scoring slumps of his career. Finney-Smith went without a field goal for 61:43 of game clock, going without a basket in the second half against Ole Miss all the way through 39 of the 40 minutes against Alabama.

Once Florida’s leading scorer, Finney-Smith has slid into second behind junior guard Michael Frazier II (who struggled scoring in his own right on Tuesday) in that category, but as a 47.3 percent shooter who hits 40.5 percent of his triples (second-best on the team, ahead of Frazier), the Gators need Finney-Smith’s scoring to help move the needle.

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Fastbreak: Dorian Finney-Smith helps Florida scrape past Alabama 52-50

The Florida Gators‘ season was not saved on Tuesday night, but Florida (11-9, 4-3 SEC) did avoid blowing yet another double-digit lead as it inched its way past the Alabama Crimson Tide (13-7, 3-4 SEC) in the final seconds of the contest to pull out a 52-50 win at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The Gators, losers of three-straight games, avoided dropping four contests in a row for the first time since 2003-04 as head coach Billy Donovan improved to 10-0 all-time against the Crimson Tide.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with 10 quick-hitters:

It was over when: Alabama erased a five-point Florida lead as Ricky Tarrant drained a three (giving him 12 points in the half) with two minutes to play. Still tied with less than 30 seconds left, Gators redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith received a pass beyond the arc, pump faked and drove the lane to finish with a hammer dunk, putting UF up 52-50 with 22 seconds to play. It wound up being the game-winning basket for the Gators, as Finney-Smith delivered a block at the other end to negate a shot attempt and conclude the contest. “It was a little anger, I struggled tonight, but my teammates did a good job staying together when adversity came,” Finney-Smith told ESPN after the game. Added Donovan: “I thought he had a pretty decent look to take a three, it was probably a smart decision to drive it, obviously with the way it finished up. … It was good to see him go to the rim strong like that.”


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Gameday: Florida Gators at Alabama Crimson Tide – Donovan struggling with inconsistent team

Location: Coleman Coliseum – Tuscaloosa, Alabama [Capacity: 15,383]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 10-9 (3-3 SEC) Record: 13-6 (2-3 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -1.5

FLORIDA’S JUST ‘NOT OK’

The Gators are not a good team losing games, they’re a floundering group of players still trying to find their footing 19 games into the 2014-15 regular season. This is not opinion, it is fact, and it is Donovan’s unwavering belief, too.

To a similar point, Florida has not played well for 40 minutes in quite a while. It may put together some solid 30-, 20- or 10-minute stretches, but the Gators getting the most out of their abilities for 40 minutes? That is not happening.

“This group is never ‘all right.’ Ever. Ever. They’re not. They’re ‘all right’ when I can see them do it day in and day out. And they really, really struggle in that area. They really, really struggle,” Donovan said on Monday.

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Florida AD Jeremy Foley answers questions, expects to spend $1 million on cost of attendance

In a question-and-answer session held on the program’s official website, as well as another on its Twitter account, Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley discussed a number of topics including how the recently-passed cost of attendance legislation will affect his program next season.

“The cost of attendance that passed is obviously an opportunity for us to do something that we’ve all talked about for our student-athletes for a number of years now. In essence, it increases the value of their scholarship. There’s going to be a financial impact for us, a little over a million dollars,” he explained via the school’s website.

“But it’s money well spent and certainly I think the new autonomy structure has allowed that to happen. It excites us that we had the flexibility to do something like that, and I’m sure there will be more changes in the future.”

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Gameday: Florida Gators at Ole Miss Rebels – Donovan hopes humbled UF is ready to rebound

Location: Tad Smith Coliseum – Oxford, Mississippi [Capacity: 9,061]
Time: 6:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal, Joe Dean Jr.)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS OLE MISS REBELS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Andy Kennedy
Record: 10-8 (3-2 SEC) Record: 11-7 (2-3 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida +3

ANOTHER TOUGH WEEK

Two poor performances. Two embarrassing losses. Two winning streaks ended. That’s what the last seven days have been like for Florida, which fell 73-61 on the road against Georgia last Saturday (ending a six-game series winning streak) before being stomped 79-61 at home by LSU (ending a 20-game SEC home winning streak) on Tuesday.

The Gators have proven to be an incredibly flawed and inconsistent team, one void of leadership and – more importantly – overall top-to-bottom talent. That is why Florida, if current trends continue, will not just miss the NCAA Tournament but also the NIT while posting the worst record of a Donovan-coached team since his second season at UF.

“I’m just trying to get these guys to understand that individually, on their own, we’re no good. We’re not talented enough, we’re not good enough,” Donovan said Friday. “Collectively as a group, the sum’s got to be greater than the parts. [I] got to get them to understand what ‘team’ actually is.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. LSU Tigers; second-year F Chris Walker still not ready for prime time

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Braed Nessler, Sean Franham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 84 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS LSU TIGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Johnny Jones
Record: 10-7 (3-1 SEC) Record: 13-4 (2-2 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -10

STILL NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME

Forward Chris Walker, despite joining the Gators during the mid-way point of his first season and being suspended for the first two games of the 2014-15 campaign, has played in 33 games at Florida. He may have been listed as a sophomore before this season began, but his first full year of actually being a college basketball has just passed.

And the results, at least to this point, indicate that Walker is far from the phenom many expected the day he committed to the Gators. In fact, he more closely resembles former UF center Patric Young, a freakish athlete who has a long way to go to be a capable college starter, let alone an NBA player.

“I just know I need to improve,” Walker said Monday. “I just need to come in every day and be focused and just work hard.”

Averaging just 16.3 minutes per game this season, Walker is doing little right. He only hits 48.6 percent of his field goals – despite being positioned around the basket – and is a team-worst 37.0 percent from the free throw line (he’s only drawn 27 fouls and made 10 gimmies in 245 minutes of court action). Walker is rebounding at a high rate with an average of 4.2 per game, and his ability to block shots has helped the Gators’ defense, though his inability to be reliable on pick-and-rolls and other sets has been a hindrance.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs; Donovan still wanting more from Frazier, Hill

Location: Stegeman Coliseum – Augusta, Georgia [Capacity: 10,523]
Time: 2:00 p.m. EST

TV: CBS (Andre Catalon, Clark Kellogg)
Streaming Video: CBSSports.com | Mobile Video: CBS Sports app

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Mark Fox
Record: 10-6 (3-0 SEC) Record: 10-5 (1-2 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: -2

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series over Georgia 109-99 with a 26-10 record against its rival under Donovan’s leadership. UF is 10-7 under Donovan when playing UGA in Athens.
» The Gators were 86-10 over the last three seasons when holding opponents under 71 points in a game; UF is 9-5 this season when doing so.
» Florida has put forward 10 different starting lineups in 16 regular-season games. Overall, 10 players have started at least one game for UF this season.
» The Gators learned to win close games last season, going 15-2 in contests decided by single digits; Florida is 3-5 in such affairs this season.
» UF is on pace for 19.4 wins in the regular season while looking for its 17th consecutive season with 20+ victories. Florida’s 16-straight campaigns with that many wins is the longest streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally. Only eight coaches have ever won 20+ games in 14+ consecutive seasons.
» Earlier this season, Miami snapped Florida’s program-record 33-game home winning streak, which dated back to Nov. 11, 2012, and was the second-longest in the nation. The Canes also broke the Gators’ school-record 25-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents, which dated back to Dec. 22, 2010.
» Florida is on three program-record regular-season winning streaks – 21-straight games against SEC opponents overall (since Jan. 8, 2014) and 20-straight SEC games at home (since Jan. 9, 2013). UF has also won a school-record 10-in-a-row over SEC opponents on the road (since Jan. 11, 2014).

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